Holiday Hangover

We told everyone that this time around, we would be doing Christmas in our pajamas, and we did. No suitcases, no schedules, not even snapshots to commemorate the thing. We spent the holiday drawn in tightly to our little family nucleus, and when a Yuletide virus stopped by to knock the four of us out of commission, we simply paused the carols and curled up for a nap. It was as low-key as you can get.

And still still still, despite our PJs-and-leftovers approach to Christmas, the season managed to flatten me as surely as a wrecking ball. This happens every year. I imagine us strolling through a December as serene as the lyrics to Silent Night, our faces reflecting the twinkle of simple delights. After a Christmas of grand surprises and Norman Rockwell reenactments, we’d settle back with our eggnog to watch the snow fall and our children play jacks until the new year chimes in, inviting us to skip down new avenues of creativity and possibility with all those fresh reserves of energy. I imagine REST as the defining characteristic of our holiday.

Of course, my daydream version of December is 97% dependent on house elves while the other 3% is up to the weather.

Real December has a knack for turning joyful occasions into deadlines and togetherness into a theater production. At least it does for me. No matter how committed I am to slowing down and savoring the holidays, most spare moments still find me scrambling to finish the backdrops and props of traditional merriness while our budget burrows a hole under the fence. Some of that I’m sure is due to my being The Mom, which is shorthand for Santa-Claus-party-hostess-errandboy-housecleaner-magic-experience-coordinator-pixie, while the other part is that I’m terrible at letting go of expectations (mine + others’ + ones that I attribute to others whether or not that impression is accurate). I’m so afraid of disappointing anyone that I run myself into the ground preparing for events that I’m then too worn out to enjoy. Really, REST ends up being the opposite characteristic of my holiday, so it’s no big surprise that I tend to start January with an emotional hangover.

I’m not writing this to complain about our Christmas but rather to notice and remember—to acknowledge the patterns that end up depleting me and to tack my observations up on the doors of future Decembers. It’s only now that I really can begin to notice, with the girls back in school and house renovations wrapping up (what timing, eh?) and all the upheaval and rush and too-late nights of the past month gradually losing their grip on the present. Self-care can now get a word in edgewise, and I’m relieved to be getting back to myself. I love the sparkle of Christmas, but I also love the slow glow of a nourished heart. Here’s hoping that next year, I’ll finally find a way to combine the two.

How were your holidays?

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  1. Um. Yes. Yes. Yes.

    I got sick ON Christmas. All those deadlines eat your joy. I am just glad I met the deadlines at this point. And I *LOVE* that MOM is short hand for all those things. Yes.

    Plus? Yes.

    Happy New Year Bethany! I am toasting your self-care from the snow covered tundra. xoxo

  2. Ummmm, YES. I felt the same way about Christmas – it is the busiest, most stressful, and DEFINITELY most high-pressure time of year for anyone in music performance. I was so burnt out by the end of it that I couldn’t enjoy anything for weeks after! I can totally relate to this!

  3. I can relate to your feelings about the holidays very well. We had our first “own” family christmas, having our first christmas tree, staying at home on Christmas Eve and the 25th for the first time 🙂 which was very nice … but hosting family with all the mom duties you mentioned … and thinking of all my december plans that I had not accomplished (like sending you that christmas package in time … now after reading this feeling worse, because you did)
    Thank you for putting this feeling in beautiful words and reminding us that slowing down before the holidays (or trying to … once more) is worth it

  4. We had a nice Christmas. We worked a lot of hours leading up to it, but after I was done with work on Christmas eve, we had some Chinese food, drank some wine, and got ready for Christmas morning. Spent the morning with the kids, and then went to a friends house for the afternoon. We went to a family wedding a few days into the new year, which was flattening stress wise, but ended up going surprisingly well overall.

  5. “…all the upheaval and rush and too-late nights of the past month gradually losing their grip on the present.” What a great image, I love how you phrased that.

    And yes. The holidays really wear me out, particularly with my family (parents, siblings).

    Happy New Year to you! I love coming here and reading about what’s on your mind.

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